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When a state is bigger than most countries and huge expanses of that are World-Heritage rainforest, reefs and islands, it’s difficult to grasp its grandiosity in real terms.

To really get a sense of scale of Queensland, Australia’s natural wonders, you have to go up and view it from above, as far as the eye can see. Whether you prefer a fast-paced aerial tour that makes you feel like a rock star or to start your morning with a dreamy float over a waking landscape, there are many activities that will give you a whole new appreciation for just how breathtaking Queensland really is.    

Here are some of the best ways to get an amazing vantage point over Queensland’s epic land and seascapes. 

A seaplane flies over the famous Heart Reef near the Whitsunday Islands © Yannik Photography / Shutterstock

Scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the only natural structure on earth that can be seen from the moon, but you don’t have to go that high up to get an out-of-this-world view.

A helicopter ride, easily accessible from Cairns, is an excellent way to take in the incredible mosaic of coral reefs, continental islands and coral cays that make up the largest coral reef on the planet. You can land on pontoons, islands and beaches, and combine with a snorkel or dive, and a BBQ lunch on the pristine waters of the outer reef.

Alternatively, take a seaplane tour in the Whitsundays. Popular tours fly over Heart Reef, a stunning coral composition that has naturally formed the shape of a love heart, and land directly on the water at the magnificent Whitehaven Beach, with more than four miles of the finest white silica sand.

Hot air balloons take to the skies west of Cairns © Courtesy of Tourism & Events Queensland

Hot air balloon ride in Brisbane or Cairns

You wouldn’t be the first to think you’re still dreaming as you gently rise with the sun and float on up above the waking landscape below in a hot air balloon.

Thankfully the early wake-up call is definitely worth it and will likely vanish from your mind the moment you spot your first kangaroo bounding below in the golden sunlight ­– a common sighting in these parts.

Flights from Brisbane will take you south of the city over the heritage buildings of Ipswich, the Scenic Rim and Somerset countryside. While west of Cairns, hot air balloon rides center in the Atherton Tablelands, also known as the Cairns Highlands, where tropical fruit plantations, farms and wineries sprawl the rolling hills.

After your hot air balloon ride, consider taking some delicious stops on the ‘Atherton Tablelands Food Trail’ to try the locally-produced cheese, chocolate, macadamia nuts, tropical fruit infused wine and liqueurs, and incredible coffee. The area is now responsible for an incredible 90 percent of Australia’s coffee production.   

The Skyrail Cableway zips through the tropical rainforest of Cairns © KCEmperor / Shutterstock

Skyrail Cableway

For a unique perspective on the World-Heritage listed rainforests of the Wet Tropics, sail above them on the Skyrail Cableway from Cairns to Kuranda.

Gliding just feet above the canopy, the rainforest scenery along this 4.7-mile gondola is unbeatable. If you want to up your heart rate a little further, upgrade to a ‘Diamond View’ gondola with a glass floor for unobstructed views straight down to the canopy below.

There are two stops along the Skyrail route: the first at Red Peak, where you can explore the rainforest boardwalk, and the second at Barron Falls with its panoramic views of the gorge and the waterfall. The Falls are a sight to behold any time of year but are particularly breathtaking during the wet season when the rains bring it to raging life. 

The final destination of Kuranda is a quaint village perched in the middle of the rainforest, with restaurants, souvenir shops, markets, as well as three of its own attractions: Birdworld, the Kuranda Koala Gardens and the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.

Just outside the village is Rainforestation Nature Park with a number of interactive visitor experiences on offer, including the not-to-be-missed Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience where Indigenous guides showcase traditional music, dance and spear-throwing, and will even teach you how to throw a boomerang.

The Glass House Mountains are a popular destination for thrill-seeking climbers © Blue Pebble / Shutterstock

Climb the Glass House Mountains

The Glass House Mountains comprise a series of eleven volcanic plugs on the coastal plain of the Sunshine Coast, and are a popular destination for thrill-seeking climbers.

These molten lava volcanic peaks are not only awe-inspiring to look at, each are characters in the Dreamtime – the stories of creation for Indigenous Australians. As you look out at the mountains, this ancient legend in Indigenous mythology unfolds before you and an understanding of it will completely transform the way you look at this landscape.

The story is about a father and mother named Tibrogargan and Beerwah, and their many children. The story goes that Tibrogargan noticed the sea was rising and hurried to gather his family. He asked the eldest son Coonowrin to look after his pregnant mother, but in his fear of the impending storm and unaware that his mother was with child, he fled, leaving her and his siblings to fend for themselves. Furious at his son’s cowardice, Tibrogargan chased after Coonowrin and struck him so hard he dislocated Coonowrin’s neck.

After the storm, they returned to the plains and Coonowrin asked for forgiveness, but Tibrogargan turned to the ocean with his back to his son. Now the family can be seen in the volcanic peaks – the pregnant Beerwah, at 1820ft, is the biggest of the mountains and is said to still be pregnant to this day, as it takes time to birth a mountain. Coonowrin is easily recognizable by the angled rock of his broken neck.

Visitors will enjoy magnificent views of all three of these iconic peaks from Ngungun, one of Coonowrin’s siblings. The 830ft Mount Ngungun has a 1.7-mile summit track that begins in open forest and culminates in 360-degree views.

For a panoramic shot of the mountain-dotted plains, visit Wild Horse off the Bruce Highway. At more than 400 feet tall and with just a half-mile walk to the lookout, this is the most accessible of the Glass House Mountains. Wild Horse was another one of the siblings, who was said to be always running away to play by the sea. With Queensland’s impeccable beaches, who can really blame him?

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Queensland by Sea: Vivid experiences on and under the water
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